RICHLAND – What a difference 14 or so hours can make.
A night after the Midlothian softball team relied on a walk-off, inside-the-park home run to squeak out a bi-district opening win, the Lady Panthers found the second game much easier thanks to 11 runs on eight hits for an 11-1 win over Richland, sweeping the series.
By virtue of the win, the softball program becomes the second team in school history to win a bi-district round contest in 5A. The boys soccer team knocked off Euless Trinity on March 29 for the school’s first 5A playoff victory. The Lady Panthers can become the first team to move past the area round when they play No. 6 state-ranked Keller at 7:30 on Friday in a one-game showdown.
“It’s a pretty special moment just the way the year got started off, just the way everything has gone, it’s been special,” coach Frank Griffin said. “A lot of people kind of counted us out, first year in 5A and we’re here and we’re for real. We’ve got as good a chance as anyone to step up and get it done.”
Delaney Wayland’s blast for the win on Friday propelled Midlothian into Saturday’s road game and the momentum carried over with it. Amanda Claus put the Lady Panthers on the board in the first inning with a triple that plated Kacy Williams. Claus then scored on a sac fly by Reagan Luedtke for a 2-0 lead.
That lead held for much of the game and got bigger thanks to a huge fourth inning surge. A leadoff triple by Mackenzie Grier and a failed fielder’s choice during Aizia Azarcon’s at-bat put two on. Wayland brought the first run of the inning home on an error at short.
Griffin then went to the bench inserting pinch hitter Katie Daniel. The freshman didn’t disappoint, using a triple to clear the bases and bring home two more runs.
“It was amazing. Words cannot express. Being a freshman coming in and having all the upperclassmen kind of take me under their wing and show me the ropes, doing my best is the least I can do for them,” Daniel said.
Claus added to her impressive day with a double that scored Daniel for the final run of the inning as the Lady Panthers went up 6-0.
After Richland scored one in the bottom half of the fourth, Midlothian sealed the game with another offensive outburst in the sixth and seventh innings. A leadoff double by Mackenzie Hunt allowed the first run to score on an error during Williams’ at-bat. Another error put Claus on as Luedtke singled Williams in for the second and final run of the sixth.
In the seventh, it was a hit-by-pitch to Azarcon and an error during Wayland’s at-bat that put two on setting the stage for Savannah Valderas. The center fielder cleared the bases with a two-run single and then scored on an error during Williams’ at-bat as the Lady Panthers tacked on three more insurance runs.
“I’m glad the team put it together. We finally startied hitting (Richland’s pitcher),” Claus said. “Last night we were popping up, hitting little weak ground balls. We definitely adjusted to her today.”
That was more than enough run support for senior pitcher Megan Spence, who continued to have the Lady Rebel bats off-balance. Spence struck out another eight on Saturday while allowing just six hits. For the series, she gave up 14 hits but only three runs while striking out 20 batters.
Now the Lady Panthers turn their attention to much-hyped Keller for a winner-take-all battle. While there is pressure of having just one opportunity to get things right, a big sweep and an offensive surge have the players feeling confident.
“It’s exciting. I love playoffs and I think we just kicked their butt. This is good for us to go on to the next round,” Spence said.
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